What if working for fintech bank Revolut isn't as toxic as you think? What if it's perfectly possible to talk like a corporate machine gun and to lead a happy and fulfilled life? Revolut already said it's learning from its mistakes. Now one insider has written a whole blog post about how it's really not so bad there after all.
Abhi Thanendran is Revolut's lead data scientist, based in New York. Thanendran is building a data science team for Revolut, which means he can probably do without last week's Wired article saying that for most people at the company, life is an unhappy mix of long hours and demeaning communication with senior staff.
Either with this in mind, or simply because he disagrees with Wired's portrayal of his employer, Thanendran has penned a long rebuttal to all the claims by Wired. He's worked for Revolut since November 2016 and has risen from data analyst, to data scientist to senior data scientist to data product owner, so is theoretically well-placed to assess the culture from the perspective of minion and master. This is what he says (and implies):
1. Working for Revolut is akin to a religious experience
Working for Revolut means worshipping at the alter of Nik Storonsky. Thanendran says Revolut's founder, who was formerly a trader at Credit Suisse, has a "vision," and that getting with this vision gave him a special purpose in life.
"It provided me with a large sense of purpose and I grasped how much of my life I needed to dedicate to achieve this. It no longer was just their vision though, it became mine..."
2. Revolut is an upstart, and maybe it likes to employ upstarts too
As you may have observed from yesterday's study of the semiotics of Revolut, the firm and its employees talk as if they're a group of mercenaries trying to assail a banking citadel. - "They [big banks] have more money, more people, more connections. We are underdogs. We keep learning. We innovate. Everyday is a new fight. Technology is our weapon," says VP Alan Chang on his LinkedIn profile.
In his blog, Thanendran suggests he's always been an outsider battling his way in, meaning he might at home at Revolut. - "I come from very little privilege and have had to work extremely hard at every step of my life."
This isn't to say that everyone at Revolut had a hard start (Storonsky's father is a director at Gazprom), but it may mean you'll settle in its culture if you're used to overcoming adversity. Goldman Sachs famously likes to hire people from challenged backgrounds for the same reason.
3. You might work long hours, but they will be self-imposed and you will control when they begin
Thanendran doesn't exactly deny that he works long hours (although he does emphasize that plenty of people at Revolut participate in after work activities, whether prescribed by the company or not), but he does insist that any prolonged grind is entirely voluntary. "I occasionally choose to work long hours because I set higher goals than the team KPIs and roadmaps. "
He says he was never asked to work weekends (although doesn't say whether he chose to). And he says sometimes he's started work at 5pm.
In this sense, Thanendran is echoing Alan Chang and Christos Chelmis, a VP in operations and product owner at Revolut, respectively, who told us in December that people there work hard because they "love it", that there's no clock watching - you just have to achieve your goals and that you can work whenever you like, so long as you get the work done.
4. Revolut is not over-burdened by bureaucracy
Lastly, if you're sick of the investment banking hierarchy and of management by committee and are looking for something a little more responsive and benevolently autocratic, Revolut will work for you. Chang told us previously that he was fast-tracked into Revolut after writing to Storonsky himself. Now, Thanendran says Storonksly himself expedited his transfer from London to New York when the weather in London was getting him down. - If you work at Revolut, Nik will help you get ahead.
Of course, a lack of bureaucracy and of systems can be a double-edged sword. Thanendran also admits that some of Revolut's high staff turnover in the past was due to its lack of "management structures" and says this is being remedied.
5. Revolut is trying to copy Bridgewater
Lastly, Thanendran doesn't say this but if you're thinking of working for Revolut, it's worth bearing in mind that the company has modelled its culture on Bridgewater, the hedge fund also famed for high staff turnover, which likes employees to be "radically transparent" with one another.
"We model some of our values on Ray Dalio’s approach at Bridgewater – although ours is a very basic version of what they have there," said Chang in December.
If you like to keep your thoughts to yourself, Revolut may not be the place for you.
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